Nice reading month this go round. My total was helped by a couple of books I taught. Still, a nice month.
1. The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic (5.0/5) – This was a book that I read in college. I remembered really liking it, but that was all I could remember, so I thought it was time to reread it. It was fantastic. This is one of two books I read this month that seems to be asking questions as much as telling a story. It’s hard to really like any of the characters, but it’s also impossible to completely hate them. A really wonderful and creative exploration of what can happen when religious fanaticism and intellectual enlightenment collide.
2. Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku (4.5/5) – I tried this last summer, but I just wasn’t in the mood for science writing at the time. I finally picked it back up and found it to be pretty enjoyable. Kaku seems to always do a good job of presenting a narrative to soften the science, which makes this, in many places, like a reading a memoir or history as much as pop-science. Still, he deals well with some pretty complicated concepts (though, from a science perspective, I’d probably recommend The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene). My primary issue was that the last section (where he talks about future technological possibilities) crossed the line from theoretical physics to hypothetical dreaming.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (5.0/5) – I have nothing new to say about this book. My students read it and it is wonderful, so I read it with them.
4. Tambourines to Glory by Langston Hughes (5.0/5) – Cate and I have exchanged new book lists and this is the first one I’ve read from hers. A VERY quick and easy read, but also very good. Hughes almost always sounds like a poet, even when he’s writing prose, and this is no exception. A complete story in a nice, tight package.
5. Denialism by Michael Specter (4.0/5) – This is a good book and it makes a lot of good points, but I have issues with it. Specter often ignores certain things like our currently declining life expectancy and the ethical issues of companies like Monsanto in order to make his points seem stronger. What’s sad about this is that I fully believe he could have effectively dealt with all of these issues if he’d been willing to go to the trouble. This really is a good book, and I’d recommend it, but Specter is preaching to the choir. He’s not going to change many minds with this book.
6. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (5.0/5) – See #3. All I have to add is that the more I read this play, the more I think all the characters are totally out of their minds.
7. Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo (5.0/5) – This was the best new book I read this month and it’s the best Russo I’ve come across. There are some criticisms that accuse him of being heavy-handed, but I think they miss the point. I don’t find the book to be heavy-handed so much as I find it to be really honest. This is the other book I read this month that spends as much time asking questions as telling a story. The primary question is very interesting. Russo seems to be wondering what kind of person is the best kind to be. He finds flaws in everything and arrives at nothing like an answer, but the exploration is rich and wonderful. I highly, highly recommend this novel.
Winter/Spring Book Queue Update:
America America by Ethan Canin The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic
Rabbit, Redux by John Updike
Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku Great Plains by Ian Frazier So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
Dune by Frank Herbert
One of Ours by Willa Cather